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James Clear
James Clear writes at, where he shares ideas for using behavior science to improve your performance and master your habits. For fresh ideas on how to live a healthy life — both mentally and physically — join his free newsletter. Or, download his 45-page guide called Transform Your Habits.

Entries by James Clear

Motivation is Overvalued. Environment Often Matters More.

(0) Comments | Posted July 18, 2016 | 2:56 PM

It can be tempting to blame failure on a lack of willpower or a scarcity of talent, and to attribute success to hard work, effort, and grit.

To be sure, those things matter. What is interesting, however, is that if you examine how human behavior has been shaped over time,...

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The Four Burners Theory: The Downside Of Work-Life Balance

(0) Comments | Posted July 15, 2016 | 4:51 PM

One way to think about work-life balance issues is with a concept known as The Four Burners Theory. Here's how it was first explained to me:

Imagine that your life is represented by a stove with four burners on it. Each burner symbolizes one major quadrant of your life.

  1. The...
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The Goldilocks Rule: How to Stay Motivated in Life and Business

(0) Comments | Posted July 11, 2016 | 8:49 PM

It was 1955 and Disneyland had just opened in Anaheim, California when a ten-year-old boy walked in and asked for a job. Labor laws were loose back then and the boy managed to land a position selling guidebooks to visitors for $0.50 a piece.

Within a year, he had transitioned...

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Shoshin: This Zen Concept Will Help You Stop Being a Slave to Old Beliefs

(0) Comments | Posted June 29, 2016 | 11:52 AM

I played baseball for 17 years of my life. During that time, I had many different coaches and I began to notice repeating patterns among them.

Coaches tend to come up through a certain system. New coaches will often land their first job as an assistant coach with their alma...

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The Akrasia Effect: Why We Don't Follow Through On What We Set Out to Do And What To Do About It

(2) Comments | Posted June 20, 2016 | 4:19 PM

By the summer of 1830, Victor Hugo was facing an impossible deadline. Twelve months earlier, the famous French author had made an agreement with his publisher that he would write a new book titled, The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Instead of writing the book, Hugo spent the next year pursuing...

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Habit Creep: The Proven, Reasonable And Totally Unsexy Way to Become More Successful

(0) Comments | Posted June 13, 2016 | 10:13 AM

There is a common phenomenon in the world of personal finance called "lifestyle creep." It describes our tendency to buy bigger, better, and nicer things as our income rises.

For example, say that you receive a promotion at work and suddenly you have $10,000 more of income each year. Rather...

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Warren Buffett's '20 Slot' Rule: How To Simplify Your Life And Maximize Your Results

(1) Comments | Posted June 8, 2016 | 10:21 AM

Charlie Munger settled into his seat in front of the crowd at the University of Southern California.

It was 1994 and Munger had spent the last 20 years working alongside Warren Buffett as the two men grew Berkshire Hathaway into a billion-dollar corporation.

Today, Munger was delivering a talk to...

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Be More Productive: The 15-Minute Routine Anthony Trollope Used to Write 40+ Books

(0) Comments | Posted June 6, 2016 | 10:30 AM

Beginning with his first novel in 1847, Anthony Trollope wrote at an incredible pace. Over the next 38 years, he published 47 novels, 18 works of non-fiction, 12 short stories, 2 plays, and an assortment of articles and letters.

Trollope achieved his incredible productivity by writing in 15-minute intervals for...

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The Ivy Lee Method: The Daily Routine Experts Recommend for Peak Productivity

(0) Comments | Posted June 2, 2016 | 9:36 AM

By 1918, Charles M. Schwab was one of the richest men in the world.

Schwab was the president of the Bethlehem Steel Corporation, the largest shipbuilder and the second-largest steel producer in America at the time. The famous inventor Thomas Edison once referred to Schwab as the "master hustler." He...

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The Power of Placebo: What Happens When You Believe You're Taking Steroids

(0) Comments | Posted May 31, 2016 | 10:57 AM

Fifteen athletes were scattered around the room. Everyone was looking at Gideon Ariel.

"We're going to give you steroids," he lied.

It was 1972 and Ariel was conducting a study on athletic performance with his research partner William Saville. On this particular day, the two men were offering the athletes...

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Two Harvard Professors Reveal One Reason Our Brains Love to Procrastinate

(0) Comments | Posted May 25, 2016 | 10:49 AM

Sometime around 2006, two Harvard professors began to study why we procrastinate. Why do we avoid doing the things we know we should do, even when it's clear that they are good for us?

To answer this question, the two professors -- Todd Rogers and Max Bazerman -- conducted

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How to Stop Procrastinating and Boost Your Willpower by Using 'Temptation Bundling'

(0) Comments | Posted May 23, 2016 | 10:45 AM

Like many people, Katy Milkman knew she should be exercising more.

But each day she left her job as a professor at the University of Pennsylvania feeling exhausted and drained. By the time she made it home, all she wanted to do was curl up on the couch and read...

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Lessons From a Vexillonaire: Creativity, Simplicity, and the Carefully Constrained Life

(0) Comments | Posted May 18, 2016 | 10:49 AM

The flag of Chicago is widely regarded as one of the best city flags in the United States, perhaps in the world. It is certainly one of the most popular. You'll find the flag of Chicago printed on t-shirts and mugs, tattooed on local musicians, and flying along streets, over...

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Fast Growth is Overrated

(0) Comments | Posted May 16, 2016 | 10:51 AM

We live in a world obsessed with what we do.

  • What did you earn from your job last year?
  • What place did your team finish in the standings?
  • What trophy did you win? What award did you get? What measure of social status did you receive?

In moderation, this focus...

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Famous Biologist Louis Agassiz on the Usefulness of Learning Through Observation

(0) Comments | Posted May 11, 2016 | 11:16 AM

Louis Agassiz, the famous Swiss biologist, placed a fish specimen on the table in front of his post-graduate student.

"That's only a sunfish," the student said.

"I know that," Agassiz replied.

He continued, "Write a description of it. Find out what you can without damaging the specimen. When I think...

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How to Fall in Love With Boredom and Unlock Your Mental Toughness

(0) Comments | Posted May 9, 2016 | 11:49 AM

Whether we are talking about athletes, artists, or academics, the story is the same. If you want to fulfill your potential then you must practice a specific skill for a long time with remarkable consistency. Mastery is never an accident.

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Inside the Mind of a Mad Scientist: The Incredible Importance of Personal Science

(0) Comments | Posted May 4, 2016 | 12:07 PM

For decades the world's greatest doctors and researchers had believed that stomach ulcers and, eventually, stomach cancers were caused by stress, spicy foods, and too much acid in the stomach.

Barry Marshall wasn't buying it. Marshall was an Australian physician and microbiology researcher and he believed that stomach ulcers were...

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Pat Riley on the Remarkable Power of Getting 1% Better

(0) Comments | Posted May 2, 2016 | 1:37 PM

The 1986 Los Angeles Lakers were one of the most talented basketball teams ever assembled, but they are rarely remembered that way.

The team started the 1985-86 NBA season with a 29-5 record. "The pundits were saying that we might be the best team in the history of basketball," head...

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You're Not Ready for Marriage

(0) Comments | Posted April 27, 2016 | 10:59 AM

Sometime in 2014, two famous men walked into a recording studio. They were working on a rap album, but at this particular moment they were talking about marriage.

The first man was someone you would expect to be working on a rap album. His real name was Olubowale Akintimehin, but...

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Design for Default: How to Optimize Your Daily Decisions

(0) Comments | Posted April 25, 2016 | 5:30 PM

You might assume that humans buy products because of what they are, but the truth is that we often buy things because of where they are. For example, items on store shelves that are at eye level tend to be purchased more than items on less visible shelves.

In the...

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